The Tanzanian People
Must Stop the Corruption
in Their Country
Here is an example of corruption, related by a person who was on a legal elephant hunt:
“On a 2010 elephant hunt in the northern part of the Selous, I saw firsthand how Tanzania’s game department was part of the poaching problem. As usual, the game department assigned a game scout to me. He stayed in our camp and rode on our truck to make sure that I shot only the animals I was licensed to shoot. In addition, whenever we saw an elephant, he kept track of the location on his GPS, supposedly to tell his boss about an area they ought to protect against poachers. A couple of days later, when we returned to hunt those areas again, we found dozens of elephant carcasses with their tusks hacked off. We knew our game scout was forwarding the GPS coordinates of every elephant we saw to his superior, who then sent teams to kill the elephants and bring him the tusks. His superior even stopped by our camp for coffee one afternoon, and we forced ourselves to be cordial while he gloated. After all, he had the power to take our game scout away which would have ended our hunt. In only a few years, such corruption obliterated the elephant population in the northern part of the Selous.”
Since 2010 the Tanzanian game department has largely stopped this kind of corruption and created a new generation of committed game wardens and scouts. One such warden is Benson Kibonde. As the Daily Mail says, this is a dedicated man who molds “his scouts into a force capable of fighting the poaching gangs” and is genuinely interested in protecting elephants for “our children” (Fletcher).
Yet corruption still goes on, at all levels, from the man who loans his car to a friend so he can drop off some tusks in a shipping yard, to the government officials who take bribes to ignore the shipments.
In 2015 Mary Rice from the EIA did an interview about the corruption in Tanzania during which she said the problem is not a lack of proof, but a lack of follow-through. She says, “We first identified problems to the [Tanzanian] authorities back in 2007. We provided them with intelligence and information about specific individuals operating and where they operated and the sorts of things they were engaged in. We met with the then-minister of the environment and gave him video footage we had of the people involved [including] individuals working in shipping. . . and senior individuals. . . within the Wildlife Department” (Cornell, “Why”). According to Rice, despite the evidence, nobody in Tanzania’s government took any action. This led EIA to produce a 2014 report which she says “covers a decade. . . of systematic failure, corruption, and abuse” in Tanzania.
Rice also points out that “every single step of the chain is facilitated by Tanzanians. . . It’s not an isolated Chinese venture. It’s a joint venture.” She says the only way the Chinese “can work successfully in the manner that they do is with the collusion of local people.” This starts with “the transportation of the goods along the roads, the stashing of goods in safe houses, the people involved in pulling together containers and getting false documents” and goes from “the taxi drivers to the. . . people in customs, in the airports, in the freight companies, [and] in the shipping companies.”
It does seem impossible that so much poaching happens without the knowledge and help of some government officials. To quote an article in Daily Mail: “It is not conceivable that an AK-47 carrying individual can access the Selous. . ., bring down a 3-tonne elephant, slaughter it for its tusks, get out of the protected area, load the tusks on a ship at Dar es Salaam and sell it in Mongolia without being seen by any of the relevant chains of Government departments. To achieve that feat requires men, resources, weapons, [and] a network of facilitators and authority that can only be found in Governments” (K’oyoo).
Daily Mali also says, “Nyalandu himself told the BBC. . . that he ‘had the names of politicians, senior people’” and that former President “Kikwete received a dossier from his intelligence services last year listing the names and roles of nearly 50 senior politicians, officials and businessmen involved in the ivory trade [yet] none has been arrested and convicted. Nobody accuses Mr. Kikwete of involvement in smuggling, but one authoritative source said: ‘He finds it very difficult to go after anybody related to him or his friends.’”
In early 2015, instead of answering the allegations, Tanzania’s officials clammed up, and they now require everyone else, including the media, to be quiet, too. Under Tanzania’s new Statistics Act passed in March 2015, anyone who publishes statistics about the Tanzanian government without approval from the National Bureau of Statistics may face fines or jail time (“Tanzania’s Election”).
On the flip side, also in 2015, the Tanzanian government took some concrete steps towards decreasing internal corruption. First, they replaced the old game management department with the new Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA). This move probably routed out some older managers who had been longstanding members of poaching webs. Tanzania also agreed to a basket fund monitored by the United Nations (UNDP) for incoming donations. This would keep the donations in international hands and out of the hands of potentially corrupt Tanzanian officials.
It seems that the new president of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli, nicknamed the Bulldozer, is attempting to stop corruption. During his first speech to his congress in November 2015, he said, “How come tusks are impounded in China or Europe while they passed at Dar-es-Salaam port? Something should be done to make sure that this situation does not recur” (O’Kasick). He added, “There has been poaching in which the responsible ministry must be involved, for it is not possible for ivory of such large amounts from our country to be seized in other countries without the knowledge of our local officials” (Jones). In addition, Magufuli suspended the Commissioner General of the Tanzanian Revenue Authority (TRA) and thirty-five TRA employees, including senior officials, on suspicion of fraud (O’Kasick).
Inspired by Magufuli’s leadership, Tanzania’s game scouts are “becoming assertive again in Tanzania, having gained newfound confidence that the country’s new political leadership is supporting them in meeting their objectives” (Thome, “Anti-Poaching”).